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The Lady Architects of Central Florida

Katherine C. Budd (1860-1951) designed not one but TWO historic residences in Lake County. Each built in the 1920s, both homes remain in use today, although one has since been converted to an outstanding Howey in the Hills Museum. Miss Budd’s architectural talent had been recognized as early as 1924, the year she earned a place as the first-ever female member of New York City’s prestigious Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Howey-in-the-Hills Mansion

While her architectural offices were headquartered in New York City, Katherine Budd visited Eustis and Tavares often during Florida’s “Great Land Boom” of the 1920s. It was during this time that she designed the two Lake County residences, and it was also during this time that she bought, remodeled, and renamed the Lakeview Hotel at Tavares. The new name of Katherine Budd’s hotel was Biltavern Hotel. To manage her hotel, Katherine hired William Shriver away from New York’s prestigious Biltmore Hotel.

The Lakeview House became The Biltavern

Katherine Budd first designed the Duncan House on Lake Dora Drive in Tavares. Her client was Attorney Harry C. Duncan. The following spring, Katherine “motored to Howey to be a luncheon guest of Mrs. W. J. Howey,” after which she was retained to design the impressive Howey Mansion, located on N. Citrus Avenue in Howey-in-the-Hills.

Katherine Cotheal Budd also dabbled in Lake County land development, owning properties at Tavares and Fruitland Park, north of Leesburg. One of the parcels was platted into a subdivision.

Likely lured to Lake County by her uncle, Hugh S. Budd was a real estate developer in Leesburg and Fruitland Park. But her uncle had passed in 1920, after which Widow Gertrude A. (Hubbard) Budd took control of the family’s land investments. “Of those who are holding many acres of wooded land in Florida having a vision for the vision,” wrote Eustis Lake Region newspaper in 1924, “Mr. R. F. E. Cooke and Mrs. Gertrude Budd own many acres of beautiful cypress trees on Okahumpka Creek, and along the highways of Lake County, and have refused many times to sell same to timber companies”.

Katherine C. Budd, the first female ember of the New York City Board of Architects, not only designed two fabulous homes in Lake County, Miss Budd also became a hotel operator and land agent in Florida’s Citrus Belt during the America’s Roaring twenties. She was not the only lady Architect, however, crashing Central Florida’s infamous “Glass Ceiling.”

Meanwhile, at nearby Orlando:

Two female designers became involved in designing a new lakeside winter apartment complex called The Amherst on Lake Concord. “F. H. Trimble, well-known Orlando Architect,” said the formal press release of 18 September 1921, was the architectural firm’s owner, but it was in fact two exceptional female architects. Ida Annah Ryan (1873-1950) and Isabel Roberts (1871-1955), who performed the design work.

Ida Ryan & Isabel Roberts began pulling building permits in their own firm’s name by February 1922. Ida Annah Ryan, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is said to be the first American female architect. (We choose not to decide between Katherine and Ida as to who was in fact first). Isabel Roberts, after studying architecture at New York City, became the first employe hired by Frank Llyod Wright when he opened his office in Oak Park, Illinois.

The Amherst Apartments on Lake Concord served as the launching pad for the firm of Ryan & Roberts, a firm that in 1924 was hired to design Lake Eola’s first-ever bandstand.

Ida, Isabel, and Katherine – three amazing Central Florida lady architects of the 1920s.

The 1920s Lake Eola bandstand is especially loved here at my Cronin books website.

More details of the Lakeview Hotel at Tavares is available in my book, Tavares: Darling of Orange County, Birthplace of Lake County. View details at my Tavares website page.

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